Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Being in accordance with, conforming to, or upholding the exact or primary meaning of a word or words.
  • adj. Word for word; verbatim: a literal translation.
  • adj. Avoiding exaggeration, metaphor, or embellishment; factual; prosaic: a literal description; a literal mind.
  • adj. Consisting of, using, or expressed by letters: literal notation.
  • adj. Conforming or limited to the simplest, nonfigurative, or most obvious meaning of a word or words.
  • n. Computer Science A letter or symbol that stands for itself as opposed to a feature, function, or entity associated with it in a programming language: $ can be a symbol that refers to the end of a line, but as a literal, it is a dollar sign.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Exactly as stated; read or understood without additional interpretation; according to the letter or verbal expression; real; not figurative or metaphorical.
  • adj. Following the letter or exact words; not free; not taking liberties.
  • adj. Consisting of, or expressed by, letters.
  • n. A value, as opposed to an identifier, written into the source code of a computer program.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. According to the letter or verbal expression; real; not figurative or metaphorical.
  • adj. Following the letter or exact words; not free.
  • adj. Consisting of, or expressed by, letters.
  • adj. Giving a strict or literal construction; unimaginative; matter-of-fact; -- applied to persons.
  • n. Literal meaning.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Consisting of, expressed by, or representing letters; alphabetic.
  • According to the letter of verbal expression.
  • Following the letter or exact words.
  • Exact; especially, mechanically precise: as, the too literal execution of an order.
  • Characterized by a tendency to regard everything in a matter-of-fact, unimaginative way: as, a very literal person.
  • Synonyms See verbal.
  • n. Literal meaning.
  • Affecting or relating to a letter: as, literal errors, literal rhymes.
  • n. In printing, a literal error; that is, a wrongly placed letter; a misprint.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. avoiding embellishment or exaggeration (used for emphasis)
  • adj. without interpretation or embellishment
  • adj. being or reflecting the essential or genuine character of something
  • adj. limited to the explicit meaning of a word or text
  • n. a mistake in printed matter resulting from mechanical failures of some kind

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Middle English, from Old French, from Late Latin litterālis, of letters, from Latin littera, lītera, letter; see letter.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Old French literal, from Late Latin litteralis, also literalis ("of or pertaining to letters or to writing"), from Latin littera, litera ("a letter"); see letter.

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